Expungement now includes convictions, drugs, assault
A new set of Maryland laws regarding expungement of criminals records went into effect on Oct. 1, and the number of residents searching for legal assistance at local legal agencies is expected to drastically increase as word spreads of the legislation.
Under the Maryland Justice Reinvestment Act, these changes will now allow convictions to be eligible for removal from a person’s record. Expungements apply in Maryland criminal (adult) and juvenile (delinquency) cases, and a Maryland employer or educational institution may not require, as a condition of employment or admission, that you disclose expunged information about yourself, according to Maryland Code.
“Attendance at our legal clinics is expected to skyrocket as word gets out,” said Amy Petkovsek, director of Advocacy for Training and Pro Bono at Maryland Legal Aid, in a press release. “Under these new laws, many more Marylanders will be eligible for expungement of their records, which will open up new employment and housing opportunities to thousands.”
The goal of the act is to reduce the state’s prison population, and in turn repurposing those funds toward treatment in order to cut down on repeat offenders. The additions to the law will greatly expand the opportunities for expungements in an area where criminals pre- viously had limited options.
“For the most part, if you were found guilty of any of the charges in your case, you were out of luck,” said Matthew Stubenburg, director of IT at the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVSL). “Under the new law, it allows for actual convictions to be expunged, albeit with a 10-year or 15-year waiting period depending on the crime. But at least now there’s an avenue or a path forward.”
MVLS is a statewide organization offering free services for those in need of legal assistance, strictly in civil cases. It has held several clinics in the Southern Maryland region, and in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, and is available to help with expungement all over Maryland.
“We have pro bono attorneys around the state that can meet clients anywhere. Especially with expungement, a lot of it can be done strictly through the mail or over the phone,” Studenburg said.
Stubenburg explained this is the second major change to expungement laws in recent years, as the state did away with the subsequent conviction rule in 2015. Prior to the change, a person could have several cases eligible for expungement, but if they were convicted of any charge, all of the cases would be locked in. Now, cases will be judged on their individual merit. Stubenburg expects to see a major uptick in clients with the most recent additions to the legislation, in conjunction with the earlier changes.
“We’ve been helping pretty significantly ever since the law changed back in 2015,” Stubenburg said. “We suspect all the people we helped get a part of their record expunged … will now need assistance again to get the final pieces off their record.”
The most notable misdemeanor convictions now eligible for expungement are drug possession, drug paraphernalia, trespass, theft and assault second degree, said Stubenburg. The full list can be found at mvlslaw.org.
A representative from MVSL can be reached through its intake line at 1-800-510-0050 or through its online application process, available on the MVSL website.